Bigger Things To Come: A Boston Pharma Firm Ramps Up Its Philanthropy



Founded in 1989 by Joshua Boger and Kevin J. Kinsella, Vertex Pharmaceuticals is a global biotechnology company focused on innovations and medicines for people with serious and life-threatening diseases. Vertex’s corporate headquarters is located in Boston’s Innovation District and business has been good lately. Which helps explain why the company is ramping up its philanthropy.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals recently announced a 10-year, $500 million commitment to corporate giving that includes plans for a foundation. The Vertex Foundation is expected to launch in 2018, but in the meantime, the company has renewed its commitment to local causes. More specifically, STEAM education in Boston Public Schools is a big interest for Vertex right now, and it plans to continue collaborating with BPS for at least another decade. Public school support in town involves student access to the 3,000-square-foot learning lab at Vertex, internships and mentoring with Vertex scientists, and annual scholarships to the University of Massachusetts. Underserved youth is the demographic in focus for Vertex’s local STEAM giving, and about $50 million of the total $500 million is going to this cause.

"In Boston, we are lucky to have companies like Vertex stepping up and contributing to our city and our future workforce," Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a press release. "This commitment will mean thousands of students across the city will continue to have the opportunity to get hands-on experiences in STEAM and see a place for themselves in Boston's thriving innovation economy."

While STEAM education in Boston is a significant part of Vertex’s big commitment, there’s more to it than that. The company employs around 2,100 people in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, with its international headquarters in London. Research and development is a big part of what this company is all about, so it’s not surprising to see some of this $500 million going to related causes and outside of Boston’s borders. Other portions of the Vertex money will be going towards granting access to Vertex medicines for the global cystic fibrosis patient community, developing young physicians and sciences in various places, and fostering innovation and youth health and wellness in the local communities where Vertex operates.

In the coming months, it’ll be interesting to see how the first Vertex Foundation grants play out, especially since the foundation is being launched with an initial $10 million company contribution. One initial feature we’re expecting to see is a matching grants program to extend employee donations to nonprofits Vertex employees care about. This could mean additional support for Boston nonprofits that aren't necessarily on the company's radar. Thus far, corporate giving for charitable programs has focused on STEAM programs in schools, patient education and advocacy organizations that work on newsletters, retreats, and quality-of-life-programs, and community groups, like shelters and food banks, that serve disadvantaged local populations.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has been on an impressive earning streak lately with stocks traded on unusually high volume and strong potential predicted for the future. This signals good things for local nonprofits in Boston and other communities where Vertex employees work. Unlike many other pharmaceutical funders, this company has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls of bad press and is consistently rated one of the best places to work. More information about the foundation will be available here in the near future.